unconventional a capella?
February 17, 2009 3:21 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for "a capella" but not the college barbershop type. Examples would be Bjork's Medulla and Camille's Le Fil.

Doesn't necessarily have to be vocal-only, for example, Philip Glass' "Etoile Polaire" or even CocoRosie's "West Side" since the instrumental part is relatively minimal, and the vocal harmonies are the main focus.

Can be altered voice, such as Imogen Heap's "Hide and Seek".

Preferably not too many western-classical/christian pieces unless they are just too awesome to exclude or they were not originally written for voice. Good examples here being Bobby McFerrin, or a vocal arrangement of Bach's Well Tempered Clavier.

Multi-cultural suggestions are welcome (solo carnatic etc.)

Feel free to push the boundaries of these requests if unbelievable vocal harmonies are involved.

posted by vaguelyweird to Media & Arts (32 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
The Unaccompanied Voice is a nice collection from around 2000. Review here.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 3:28 AM on February 17, 2009

What's going on, Marvin Gaye a capella.
posted by jouke at 3:33 AM on February 17, 2009

The Dmitry Pokrovsky Folk Ensemble.

Western-classical and (Orthodox) Christian but awesome nevertheless: Einojuhani Rautavaara's Vigilia.

The Choir Practice.
posted by misteraitch at 4:00 AM on February 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

Todd Rundgren, A Capella.

Petra Haden, I Can See for Miles and Don't Stop Believin' (and more).

Seconding Choir Practice.
posted by Karlos the Jackal at 4:03 AM on February 17, 2009

Flying Pickets?
posted by mattoxic at 4:05 AM on February 17, 2009

Me and a gun by Tori Amos
posted by brevator at 4:08 AM on February 17, 2009

The Futureheads. Their first album is the best example of this.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:26 AM on February 17, 2009

(Tom) Waits released Real Gone, his first nontheatrical studio album since Mule Variations, in 2004. It is Waits's only album to date to feature absolutely no piano on any of its tracks. Waits beatboxes on the opening track, "Top of the Hill," and most of the album's songs begin with Waits's "vocal percussion" improvisations.

From the wiki.
posted by slimepuppy at 5:32 AM on February 17, 2009

You might be interested in "puirt a beul" -Scottish Gaelic for "mouth music" - here are a couple of sisters singing it to give you an idea.
posted by rongorongo at 6:29 AM on February 17, 2009

The Threshold HouseBoys Choir
posted by mkb at 6:45 AM on February 17, 2009

Petra Hayden did the entire The Who Sell Out album acapella, in fact, not just I Can See For Miles. God knows why, but she did it.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 7:43 AM on February 17, 2009

These may be too close to what you're not looking for, but they're unconventional and, to my ears, pretty darn good.

The Real Group - The Thingamabob
The Gas House Gang - Beethoven 5.1
Eric Whitacre has written some stunning, unconventional choral pieces, such as Cloudburst.

and the pedant in me wants to point out that there are two p's in a cappella
posted by Balonious Assault at 7:48 AM on February 17, 2009

The Bobs.
posted by spacewrench at 7:50 AM on February 17, 2009

The Bobs
Zap Mama (first two albums, Adventures in Afropea and Sabsylma are largely a capella)
Sweet Honey in the Rock

Hope this helps.
posted by Pallas Athena at 7:59 AM on February 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

Seconding The Real Group, too.
posted by Pallas Athena at 8:00 AM on February 17, 2009

It's not always entirely a cappella, but how about some Tuvan (overtone) singing? Absolutely fascinating stuff - the Youtube link is Huun Huur Tu, probably the most prominent Tuvan band.

It's been gaining a lot of ground here in the west, I've personally seen I think 3 different groups at various folk / roots & blues festivals over the past few years, Bela Fleck has partnered with one on his last few albums, not to mention the resurgence in katajjaq up here in Canada.
posted by Lemurrhea at 8:35 AM on February 17, 2009

(to help those who might be searching for this in the future it's "a cappella", two p's, two l's)

Definitely +1 on The Bobs.
posted by plinth at 8:38 AM on February 17, 2009

+1 on the Bobs.

You can find a lot of college a cappella groups who do modern music like this: Exit 245, the Brown Derbies, and so on. This site has a ton of them. My personal favorite is the Lager Rhythms, not just because they're friends of mine, but also because any a cappella group that covers Weird Al, Tori Amos, and Moxy Fruvous as well as pop standards qualifies as unconventional in my book.
posted by immlass at 9:12 AM on February 17, 2009

Prelude's version of After the Goldrush.
posted by Oriole Adams at 9:35 AM on February 17, 2009

Seconding Eric Whitacre's work with special attention to:

i thank you god for most this amazing day
Water Night
When David Heard
With a Lily In Your Hand

And adding the choral arrangement of Barber's Adagio, using the text of the Agnus Dei.

Also, apologies for the quality of some of those clips. Some are decent (Barber) but I just wanted you to know which ones I was talking about for the Whitacre ones - since (except perhaps for Water Night) the texts are all pretty popular and have been set numerous times for choral production.
posted by greekphilosophy at 9:37 AM on February 17, 2009

Animal Collective, particularly their album Sung Tongs. If I remember Man Man has a few A Capella songs scattered through their albums

Ambulance - TV on the Radio
This version of the The Knife by Grizzly Bear
posted by cyphill at 10:23 AM on February 17, 2009

Lots of great suggestions here. I'm just popping in to suggest a couple of celtic-y acapella groups with lots to listen to:

The Voice Squad
posted by LN at 10:28 AM on February 17, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for all of these suggestions.

swordfish: am familiar with LMdVB, the albums that I have by them are on the too-classical side of the spectrum. Do you have any album suggestions?

closest hits to what I'm looking for have been the Tuvan singing, some of the "Unaccompanied Voice" tracks, and maybe Nuvan and Animal Collective's Sung Tongs. Possibly Puirt a beul.

All the other suggestions are, despite the talent involved, not the sound I have in mind. I'm looking for some voice-for-voice's-sake possibly experimental music, not the classic rockapella sound.

Any more ideas?
posted by vaguelyweird at 5:34 PM on February 17, 2009

There's the Honda Civic Choir... here's an interesting "making of" video.
posted by Balonious Assault at 6:01 PM on February 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

The Nylons. A capella with percussion; they did a great rendition of "Kiss Him Goodbye".
posted by Melismata at 6:02 PM on February 17, 2009

Darren Hayes's "Walk Away" suits you. Also, I quite loved the arrangement of The Beatles's "Because" in Across the Universe.
posted by divabat at 6:46 PM on February 17, 2009

Bulgarian music is totally up your alley, you just haven't gone far out enough. You need to stay away from the post-Communist, hyper-stylized "arranged folklore" of LMdVB and go for the real field stuff. Martha Forsyth has done the finest and most extensive recording in this area. Try:

Two Girls Started to Sing
Traditional Song in South-Western Bulgaria

Also give a whirl to some Albanian music. There are a few a capella tracks on here:

Anthology of World Music: Music from Albania
posted by mykescipark at 7:19 PM on February 17, 2009

Response by poster: divabat, is that the same track as on the "Love" album? Because it's already in the mix (:
posted by vaguelyweird at 7:54 PM on February 17, 2009

vaguelyweird: Which "Love" album? It's on "This Delicate Thing We've Made", and Darren Hayes is definitely fond of vocal experimenting ("I Want You", the first Savage Garden hit, was the result of an experiment of using voice as a rhythm instrument).
posted by divabat at 9:30 PM on February 17, 2009

Response by poster: sorry, i meant the beatles' arrangement. it is the same arrangement, but just beatles and birds.
posted by vaguelyweird at 9:41 AM on February 18, 2009

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